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Dr. Editlove

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 6:00 PM by neurotype:iconneurotype:
:iconprojecteducate:
:iconprojecteducate:


Lit Basics Week




Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the edit



It's a common misconception that the end result of writing is a finished product, which can then be sent out to magazines, nailed to a door, read aloud to your prisoners—whatever it is you usually do with your work.

The end result of writing is editing. And the goal of editing is to produce a finished result you can take pride in.

What editing is for

  • Resolving big errors, e.g. continuity, plot holes, inaccuracies, and other problems that will dampen the overall effect of your work.
  • Fixing details, e.g. grammar/spelling, ambiguous wording, and other technical issues.
  • Producing a polished work.
Editing gives you the opportunity to take your work and bring it up to scratch.

Why don't we do this on the initial write? Because getting the ideas down in the first place, and getting them all the way to completion, is a demanding process. Maybe you've written a piece about an improbable goal, but since you were on a roll you forgot to check the offside rules. When you go back and realize that the goal isn't valid, unfortunately, your player has to stop halfway through his victory lap and glare at the referee, instead of doing the Macarena. Or, for poetry, maybe a reread reveals that "holy shit" doesn't scan with the "act like you mean it," so it's time to find a better way to deliver your message.


Editing makes a work stronger. It may already be good, but who wouldn't want to make it better?

How to enjoy editing

  • Track Changes
  • Be yourself.
  • Understand what your work is in relation to yourself.
  • Care about the result.
A brief paean to Track Changes (which is not only available in Microsoft Word, I've also used it in LibreOffice): Track Changes is awesome. Let's say you like a passage but decide to edit it out because you're not sure it belongs. If you change your mind, you can go back and restore it with the click of a button. Sweet, no?!

Editing doesn't mean replacing yourself with a robot. I just got back some edits for a piece and, along with the criticisms, the editor put comments when she found something particularly hilarious, which is mildly gratifying and lets me know what not to touch. And then when I'm editing my own work, I don't have to play nice. My notes have included things like "were you on the drugs when you wrote this, where can I get some."

You may be asking how I can be such a bitch, even if it's only to myself. Surely that writing is a piece of my soul, crystallized into a form perceivable to humans?

...no.

Your work isn't you. It is produced by you, and representative of your skills, but it's not actually you. And if it is, why the hell shouldn't it be awesome?

I've said it above and I could go on saying it. There is nothing like a well-crafted result to make you feel good about the quality of your work. Being able to take your style and not just say, oh, this is what I write like when I've flopped out of bed, but this is something that I can't even believe I made because, ten weeks after the initial writing, it's still giving me—and other people—feels, that is pretty damn great.


Editing is not smashing down your pretty little writing house, it's bringing that house up to code and fitting it with better lights and pipes. If you're going to live in a world of stories, it might as well be one where the toilet flushes on the first try.


  • What is your current editing process?
  • In relation to writing, how much time do you spend editing?
  • Do you think your current combination is effective?


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:iconunenglishable:
unenglishable Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2014
I use git when I am on the computer to track changes.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Interesting, thanks for the link!
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:iconunenglishable:
unenglishable Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014
It is actually a tool for doing software development, and it's a bit difficult to learn.
Since I use git for development anyway, I also use it for poetry :D
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Aaah. Haha, I know a few people who write in Notepad++, reminds me of it.
Reply
:iconunenglishable:
unenglishable Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2014
I prefer vim over GUI editors but yeah, some people do like Notepad++.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't program ;p
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:iconsrsmith:
SRSmith Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014   Writer
I spend easily as much time editing as I spend writing. My writing process is such that I iterate in my head, so there's a natural form of editing that happens there, but once I've written the story out (typed it), I edit it obsessively.

I stop editing when I no longer find anything I'm unhappy with, and that is sometimes days after I've abandoned a piece to the world.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh yeah. I think seeing it always makes the most difference though.

Do you wait after editing to go back for that?
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:iconsrsmith:
SRSmith Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014   Writer
I start editing immediately after I finish writing, and usually complete the editing cycle then. That's usually at night, so I'll read the piece again in the morning one more time, but quite often it's already posted somewhere (here or on 365), but my edits at that point are typically minor.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Only for short pieces, or any length?
Reply
:iconsrsmith:
SRSmith Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014   Writer
It's been a long, long time since I've written anything longer than flash. That's about to change though, so I'll let you know how I manage that once I figure out how I manage that!
:-)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Excellent!
Reply
:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014   Writer
It may already be good, but who wouldn't want to make it better?
a combination of laziness and low self-esteem.

Your work isn't you. It is produced by you, and representative of your skills, but it's not actually you. And if it is, why the hell shouldn't it be awesome?
see above.  there seems to be something inherently "rude" about being proud of what you produce.  no one wants to be thought of as arrogant or conceited so they downplay their skills to fit in with the other sad sacks.  what is that from Mean Girls -- "you're really pretty"/"thanks"/"so you agree, you think you're really pretty..."  so stupid, and to someone with low self-esteem, they don't want to either be around those who are doing well or don't want to be accused of being conceited because they're not talking about how much their work sucks.

i edit my work until it seems that the changes i make are starting to fuck it up.
Reply
:iconsadisticicecream:
SadisticIceCream Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2014   Writer
i edit my work until it seems that the changes i make are starting to fuck it up.

Yep! :thumbsup:
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2014   Writer
:love:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah, if you can't do anything without beating other people down... I don't get why the others are listening.

Any particular thing you look for?
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014   Writer
i look for continuity, excessive words, shit words that could be better, places to stick phrases that make people go dang.
Reply
:iconsevenofeleven:
What is your current editing process?

Finish the story first.
Celebrate and leave the story alone for a day.

Start editing the next day.
Make sure my robotic german arm approves.


In relation to writing, how much time do you spend editing.

Four or more times. I have a shedule, um, a schedule.
No consecutive edits on the same story, that can be boring.

After the fourth or last time, Yeehaw, the work is set free to roam.


Do you think the combination is effective?

Mostly.
I can only check for stuff I know.

If my characters seem stilted and break their poles or
my dialog tags are too scratchy and annoying. 

I probably would not know.
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I know that it is easy to get obsessive and its much better to get something done than to exhaustively grind over and over.

This, super hard!
Reply
:iconsevenofeleven:
sevenofeleven Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014
Also I get bored.

I want to move on to the next train wreck.

You know what they say.
Every safe train ride is the same but accidents are different in their own way.

One day, I wish to write a story that allows readers to get to their destination safely and smoothly.
Not a boring safe ride but one that they liked very much.

A ride that threatens their very sanity and life but it was a smoothly done affair.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
:eager:
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:iconsevenofeleven:
sevenofeleven Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014
Me too.
Reply
:iconmarcoemma:
MarcoEmma Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014
"If you're going to live in a world of stories, it might as well be one where the toilet flushes on the first try." This will be a famous quote one day. :nod:

  • What is your current editing process?
  • I first spend one or two days reading the whole manuscript in as an ebook with as little interruption as possible and wherever I find a plot hole, I write it down in my handy notebook as well as the page and paragraph it's in. (I don't fix the holes then and there because that is too much of a distraction.) I then fill the holes the following day or a few days later then begin the tedious process of editing the mechanics (grammar, spelling, misplaced words, etc.). After this, I probably should do another round of editing the mechanics where the manuscript is on paper, but I'm not sure what my parents would think of 40-50 pages of fiction falling out of the printer onto their bedroom floor. :giggle:

  • In relation to writing, how much time do you spend editing?
  • It depends...  I tend to spend one month editing, period, but the time I spend doing the first draft varies. If I'm doing NaNo I could write the first draft in two weeks so that means I'm spending double that time editing, but if I am not doing NaNo I can spend three months on the first draft which means I'm spending a third of that time editing.

  • Do you think your current combination is effective?
  • Yeah. :) It could be better if I had the manuscript in paper and did a round of editing that way, but it is fine as it is.
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Hee, I can only hope :giggle:

Sounds like a good system, and yeah...most people aren't amenable to that sort of thing.

I use Track Changes to substitute for being able to scribble notes everywhere, haha.
Reply
:iconmarcoemma:
MarcoEmma Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014
:giggle:

Haha! I fell like I would use it too, but it's either not in the program I use or I'm too stupid to find it. :XD:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Which program?
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:iconmarcoemma:
MarcoEmma Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014
Pages for iPad. :meow:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Reply
:iconmarcoemma:
MarcoEmma Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014
Ah! Thanks! :D
Reply
:iconsingingflames:
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I know I shouldn't, but I do a lot of editing as I write. I find if I don't, I get frustrated with my work and lose interest. Once I finish a piece, I will set it aside for at least a day (longer, for longer pieces), then start my serious editing process. I reread it first in whichever format I wrote it (usually Word), looking for obvious errors - plotting issues, typos, grammar problems, yada yada yada. I do several read-throughs, correcting as I go. Once I'm happy with it, I switch it to a different format (usually putting it onto an e-reader), and read it from there. I can find more errors when I edit in a new format, something my eye hasn't looked over umpteen times.

My editing time varies, depending on the complexity of the piece. I don't edit my flash fictions as much as my longer ones. For my longer works, probably a third of my writing time is spent editing.

It may not be effective for everyone, but it works for me. :) The best method for editing is something each person has to find out for themselves (assuming it's not deluding themselves by thinking they need little or no editing).
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You find it more frustrating to not edit than to edit as you go? Iiinteresting P:

Yeah, I don't think there are any hard and fast rules beyond the 'don't make it worse when you edit, dipshit'.
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:iconsingingflames:
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I really do. It drives me batty to see a mistake or something I know I want to change and not change it. If I leave the mistake there, I start losing confidence in the piece. I know it has all these problems, and I can't see past that. :bleh: I've given up on projects because I've tried the "keep writing, don't edit" method. The worst one was my novel where I'd gotten 20k or so words in and I ditched it. :(

That is a good rule. :nod:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I deliberately write first drafts when I'm half-distracted or tired so they have to come out shitty. Then editing is no problem. :B
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:iconsingingflames:
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Good method. =P
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
:giggle: Seriously though, I've even started doing them on my phone.
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:iconsingingflames:
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Now there's a thought. :O
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014
Dr Strangelove .gifs everywhere. I could cry tears of happiness, but I'll answer the questions instead:

What is your current editing process?

Finish the thing. Celebrate with a beer. Forget about the thing for n number of days. Go back to the thing, cringe in horror, cut words and stoooopid incorrect English. Forget about the thing again. At this point we have three options: a.) I throw the thing away because it's bad beyond repair or IDGAF about further working on it; b.) the thing is satisfactory, I can leave it as it is and move on; c.) the thing still needs work, and the cycle starts anew.

In relation to writing, how much time do you spend editing?

20% writing, 80% editing. At least since I got a job in editing that leaves me little time and even less interest in caring for my own creativity.

Do you think your current combination is effective?

I got stuff done and cleaned up with it. If my productivity level is low, the fault in the system is not to be found here.
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Do both!

Mmmmmmmm beer. Which reminds me, I got some shopping to do. Fakk. And isn't English terrible :P

Haha, I never finish writing anything that I don't want to get to the end of.

Oooh. How is it going otherwise?
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014
Happeh tearz all the way.

Ugh yes it is terrible. Mostly because I think I know it, and I know it's an easy-peasy language... and then keep making mistakes all the time. ;A; Not happeh tearz this time.

Otherwise news: I got back from a very tiring reenactment last Sunday and have since been so swamped with said editing work + other pro writing, that I still haven't caught up on lost hours of sleep. Lol adulthood.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Pfft, English is only easy to pronounce :P

Haha, it's the worst.
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014
Tell me that again every time I speak the word "weird" as "wired". I can't get that little bitch right.

Naaaah, the worst would have been a fierce cold from all the rain I stood in. I got away with a slightly sore throat, nothing a benzydamine tablet couldn't solve. :D
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, I still drop vs sometimes cause they don't exist in Hindi. My fifth grade class teamed up to make me learn that sound.

Phew :lol:
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014
Reminds me of that time the owner of the kebab restaurant near my house tried to teach me how to write my name in Arabic. He had the lulz of a lifetime, if anything. |D
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
:lol: Oh man.
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:iconcrazy-ann559:
Crazy-Ann559 Featured By Owner Edited Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Q) What is your current editing process?

    A) Hmm... First, I read it through; make sure my grammar is correct and that my spelling is in tact. (I usually have it pretty close to correct when I actually write it down, cause I'm kind of a grammar nazi. XD) Then, I reread it makes sure the flow of the words sounds right; cut it to prose and make sure I'm not building brick walls in the middle of the paragraph. Next, I make sure that what's happening in the story is A) necessary and B) in character. After that, I read the page trying to imagine the scene I'm describing and that I'm being accurate with my descriptions. Then, I'm pretty much done.

Q) In relation to writing, how much time do you spend editing?

      A) Honestly? Not as much as I should. I have a habit of editing when I hit Writer's Block; it helps me get into character and jump-starts my imagination. (Well... some of the time.) I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few people constantly plagued by Writer's Block. Sometimes, it's just the grueling idea of writing when I don't want to; other times, I'm not thinking as far ahead as I should. Sometimes, I just hit a brick wall and give up. X) Maybe that's why I haven't really "finished" a story.

Q) Do you think your current combination is effective?

      A) I'm not sure; depends on what you mean by effective. Does it get the job done? Absolutely. Does it make the process enjoyable? Certainly not. Does it produce great work? Sometimes. Sometimes I'm stunned at how well it came out; other times, I think, "Its kind of mediocre.... but I'm not sure how to fix it, so I'll just leave it."
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
What about the big picture stuff like making sure it conveys the message/impression you want it to?

We'll have a discussion about writers' block later this week :eyes: There's a thread for it in the Lit Forum.

Have you noticed anything consistent about when it doesn't have the effect you wanted?
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:iconcrazy-ann559:
Crazy-Ann559 Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
That usually goes along around with making sure the characters are, in fact, in character. I'm one to convey theme through the character's words than with actions. If I do use actions, I usually have a character commenting on it not to long after; bad habit, I know. I'm just not sure how to break it.

:) Nice. I'm looking forward to it. I've articles and articles about Writer's Block, but its almost as if after I get past each one, another of a different breed springs up and I'm not exactly sure to go about beating it. :/ Maybe it's a lack of interest in my current project.... Hmmm....

Usually when I'm not getting a particular effect, its because I can't quite get the description I want without bogging the rest of the work and diverting away from the point of focus. Sometimes though, I find that what I'm trying to describe is quite mundane and boring to read. At that point, I try experimenting; seeing maybe I should put it into a different perspective for this point of the chapter, or possibly just chop the scene completely. My worst problem is when I start adding too much narration compared to the action evolving itself. It seems so natural to just start talking about how Susie Snowflake doesn't trust nobody, especially strangers, because of Blah, Blah incident, when really (for the sake of mystery and suspense) you CAN'T talk about Blah, Blah incident or even the readers don't CARE about Blah, Blah incident.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Okay, that makes sense.

Or you've written yourself into a corner o:

In the words of a lot of people, 'kill your darlings'—is the description really needed, if it's not fitting well?
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:iconcrazy-ann559:
Crazy-Ann559 Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Hmm... Maybe... But with the project I'm working with right now, it seems like I have an infinite possibilities to get from point A to point B; I'm just not sure how I should do it effectively and quickly.

....Sometimes. Sometimes I feel like you need SOME description to give a better mood, or even to show the development of mood and how it changes; otherwise, when someone says a particular something, you're not going to understand why the character reacted the way they did.
But more than not, I think its because I'm a bit of a control freak. X) 
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Have you considered making some kind of very loose outline, so you have an idea for what it should be?

I definitely think it's good to eliminate ambiguity, but a lot of that can come across through actions.
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